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Is this the anti-vaxxer's most creative scam yet?

Scary stuff: The anti-vaxxers have reached a new low.

In an attempt to bypass the “no jab, no play” childcare laws that currently exist in NSW and are expected to be implemented in Victoria, the anti-vaxxers have created a fake “church” — and the Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network Inc (AVSN), formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Network, is encouraging people to join, apparently so they can claim a “religious exemption” to vaccinations.

The “no jab, no play” laws require parents to vaccinate their children to attend childcare or preschool — and a 2013 post on the AVSN’s Facebook page recommends the church to parents “in order to get their children into preschool or childcare,” Fairfax Media reports.

A new low: Anti-vaxxers have now created a fake “church” so they can claim a “religious exemption” to vaccinations.

Fairfax also reports that the Church of Conscious Living isn’t registered as a church or charity with the federal government’s Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, and appears to have been set up purely for people to claim exemption from vaccination.

The logo for the “Church of conscious living,” which anti-vaxxers are reportedly joining in an attempt to circumvent vaccination rules.

Parents who don’t want to vaccinate their kids, but would like to enrol them in preschool, can already obtain a “conscientious objector’s” certificate from their GP after receiving counselling about the risks and benefits of immunisation, and a spokeswoman for the federal department of health told Fairfax Media that setting up a church would not alter this requirement. But virologist Dr David Hawkes told Mamamia he was concerned the anti-vaccination lobby would “use this loophole to campaign for a broader definition of the religious exemption”.

“Then people will be able to say, ‘I’m part of this particular church, I don’t need to get vaccinated,” he said.

Dr Hawkes also said he was concerned the church’s ultimate purpose was to cut off some families’ access to “any source of professional medical advice” whatsoever regarding vaccinations.

“A number of people who are vaccine-hesitant might not have a medical professional as their family health person; it may be a homeopath or a chiropractor,” he said. “(So) the only point of this church is to bypass speaking to a medical professional altogether.”

Related content: The clearest argument for just how mad the anti-vaccination movement is.

The Church of Conscious Living denounces ‘orthodox vaccination’ for children, adults and animals.

The church was created years ago; an AVN newsletter back in 2007 announced, “We have decided to create a ‘religion’, so, among other things, we can claim ‘religious exemption’, if the need ever arises, for ourselves and our children.”

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But in a scary development, it appears that campaigner Leslie Bailey, husband of outspoken anti-vaccination campaigner Stephanie Messenger, is now involved in the management of the church, which was previously managed by Jane Leonforte and Adriano Regano.

As blog Diluted Thinking reports, Australian Securities and Investment Commission records show that the business name “Church of Conscious Living” was registered by Leslie Bailey on 29 Dec 2009.

A screengrab from the ASIC website.

Messenger is understood to have been involved in the church in some capacity since its inception — she is mentioned in a 2007 newsletter in relation to the church — but it was not until 2009 that her husband became listed on the ASIC register.

Dr Hawkes, a spokesman for pro-vaccination group Stop the AVN, told Mamamia he is concerned Messenger’s potential involvement with the “church” will afford the anti-vaxxers a powerful platform to help spread their dangerous message (Messenger is the organiser for an upcoming series of anti-vaccine seminars by outspoken US anti-vaxxer Sherri Tenpenny).

“Sherri Tenpenny is one of the rock stars of the anti-vaccination movement. And so for them to associate their church with her, that’s a very powerful recruiting tool,” Dr Hawkes said.

He added that the “church” charged a $25 membership fee, which meant more funds to support the anti-vaccination movement.

If the church is promoted at Tenpenny’s tour, ” You could be looking at nearly 1000 people this church is being donated to by…  that’s going to put a lot more money into promoting the anti-vaccination movement,” said Dr Hawkes.

“None of the major religions, such as Judaism, Islam, Christianity, none of them have an issue with vaccination.”

Dr Hawkes also told Fairfax Media there is little need for a “religious exemption” to exist in any case, as “(n)one of the major religions, such as Judaism, Islam, Christianity, none of them have an issue with vaccination.”

Indeed, the Church of Christian Science is the only religion known to discourage vaccination.

Related content: “I am the 70s child of a health nut. And I wasn’t vaccinated.”